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In Memoriam: Kay Sherwood (Roskam)

October 9, 2017 02:45 PM

Kay Sherwood (Roskam) PhD, MT-BC

Kay was born in Wichita, KS in 1935.  She showed an early propensity for the piano and often spoke about how her childhood piano teacher Ethel Roth instilled not only a deep appreciation for the technical part of playing (clarity, phrasing, efficiency of fingering) but also a love of music.  She started her academic music studies at Lindenwood College in St Louis, MO and finished her BME at Southern Methodist University Dallas, TX in 1956.

Kay spent the next 61 years teaching students of all backgrounds how to play, appreciate, and help others heal with music. Kay started teaching private piano lessons in Wichita after graduation and went on to get a M.M. in Piano performance at Wichita State University, in 1966.  She then began a series of academic positions including teaching piano at Kamehameha School, Honolulu, HI from 1966-1969 and at Central Washington University, Ellensberg, WA from 1969-1972.

Kay eventually sought a doctorate at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS. While still in the graduate program, Kay was invited to start the Music Therapy program at Long Beach State University, Long Beach CA in 1974.  At Long Beach State, she helped develop the entire undergraduate and graduate curriculum and the program received accreditation from the National Association for Music Therapy.  Despite the demands of starting the new program, she also completed her PhD from the University of Kansas in Music Education/Therapy in 1977.  While at Long Beach State, Kay supervised more than 200 students who went on to practice as Registered and Board Certified music therapists throughout the country.  She was known as an inspirational teacher and mentor to students.  She was particularly known for mentoring and advocating for students with non-traditional backgrounds.

Upon the closure of the CSULB MT Program, She advocated to keep this Music Therapy Program in SoCal and moved to Chapman University, Orange, CA in 1993 as a Professor of Music and Director of Music Therapy to re-established and continue the Bachelor of Music in Music Therapy in 1995. Her book Feeling the Sound: The Influence of Music on Behavior, San Francisco Press was published in 1993 and has had multiple printings.    While at Chapman she received grants from the Weingart Foundation and REMO, Inc. for research into the use of music therapy with adolescents.  Kay served on many committees at the campus, state and national levels.  Kay was president of the American Music Therapy Association from 2000-2001.  At Chapman, Kay was again recognized as an outstanding mentor and teacher and advocate for those of all backgrounds.  Her mentees and students have gone on to be successful music therapists in a variety of settings and some have been influential in Music Departments/Music Therapy Programs across the county.

Kay retired and was awarded Emerita status from Chapman University in 2002.  She continued to serve on numerous community boards and teaching piano to students of all ages and backgrounds for the next 15 years.

Her many professional and honorary affiliations included: American Association for Music Therapy, Music Educators National Conference, National Association for Music Therapy, Mu Phi Epsilon, and Pi Kappa Lambda.

During her career, Kay received many awards most notably the Betty Isern Howery Award for outstanding contributions to the Western Region Chapter of the American Music Therapy Association.

Kay was an active participant in many organizations particularly those involved with children with special needs. In 1998, she founded the Music Therapy Associates of Southern California that provides a variety of music therapy related services in Southern California.  She also served on numerous advisory boards including the Creative Arts Health Center and assisted to establish the first music therapy centered nonprofit in the country as a founding board member of Able ARTS Work formerly known as Arts & Services for Disabled, Inc.  in Long Beach, the Youth Empowerment Center for Creative Achievement, Los Angeles, Miracles through Music, San Francisco, and Absolute Vibrations in San Francisco.

Kay’s tireless enthusiasm, passion, and energy as a music therapy advocate, building the profession in Southern California and particularly for those with non-traditional backgrounds, continues to be remembered by all whose lives she touched as a colleague, teacher, mentor, advisor, and friend.  A memorial service will be held at the Orange Coast Unitarian Church, Costa Mesa CA on Saturday November 4th at 11 am.  In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Western Region Chapter, American Music Therapy Association Intern Scholarship Fund (